Ma­jor­ity of men aren’t preda­tors

Sunday Herald Sun - - OPINION - KATIE BICE KATIE BICE IS SUN­DAY HER­ALD SUN DEPUTY ED­I­TOR katie.bice@news.com.au @kt­bice

THE #metoo cam­paign is in real dan­ger of be­com­ing a gen­eral at­tack on men. For those who missed it or aren’t on so­cial me­dia, it’s a hash­tag which started in the wake of the Har­vey We­in­stein story. It was sup­posed to show sup­port from the sis­ter­hood to vic­tims of sex­ual ha­rass­ment. Let them know that they aren’t alone, that it’s hap­pened to “me too”.

But it’s also be­come an out­let for those who want to shame al­leged abusers by nam­ing them pub­licly. Let’s be clear. Sex­ual ha­rass­ment is real, vile and not to be di­min­ished. If it goes so far as to be­come sex­ual as­sault or worse, rape, it’s a crime that should mean jail time.

But the so­cial me­dia cam­paign has lurched from be­ing well in­ten­tioned to mak­ing all men look like po­ten­tial preda­tors ready to at­tack but for the muz­zle of ci­vil­ity we have forced them to wear.

Men shouldn’t have to sit at home scour­ing their mem­o­ries for ev­ery awk­ward, clumsy or dumb line they’ve ever tried on a girl; or for throw­ing their arm around the shoul­der of some­one at the of­fice Christ­mas party af­ter too much festive mer­ri­ment; or for get­ting the signs oh so wrong or just flat out try­ing it on with a woman who wasn’t in­ter­ested in them.

Just be­cause a bloke makes a pass at a col­league who is ei­ther younger or be­low them in the food chain doesn’t mean it’s ha­rass­ment. Oth­er­wise there would be no such thing as of­fice ro­mances. A bawdy joke, flip­pant re­mark, teas­ing or an iso­lated in­ci­dent doesn’t fall into that cat­e­gory ei­ther.

Be­fore you scream that women know the dif­fer­ence very well, many do — but I can’t be­lieve that ev­ery­one who has posted a #metoo has been the vic­tim of the type of ha­rass­ment we should be calling out. And by say­ing we are all vic­tims, we aren’t lend­ing sup­port to those who have suf­fered, we are some­how vaguely com­par­ing ex­pe­ri­ences when very few of us could ever un­der­stand what it’s like to en­dure a cam­paign of We­in­stein-like in­tim­i­da­tion.

It will never be as sim­ple as “look but don’t touch”, but the prob­lem is that what counts as ha­rass­ment to one per­son is not to an­other. Dis­crim­i­na­tion be­cause of race, gen­der or sex­u­al­ity is far eas­ier to call out. De­cent men shouldn’t be afraid that all it will take is their un­in­tended breach of in­dis­tinct bound­aries for them to be shamed in a pub­lic fo­rum.

And I don’t want my thor­oughly de­cent male friends and col­leagues to feel that they have to apol­o­gise for the ac­tions of ut­ter pigs.

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